For most, finding a job you love is the ultimate career goal, but journalist Sarah Jaffe is on a mission to remind workers that their job won’t love them back.
“People don’t work because we really love it and we’re just bored, and we need to find something meaningful to do with our day. We work because we have to pay the bills,” Jaffe said.
“What’s happened is this idea that ‘oh, your job is its own reward’ has sort of substituted for the traditional rewards of labour.”
Speaking with On the Job, the author of Work Won’t Love You Back – How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us, Exploited, Exhausted and Alone, warned listeners that ideas around loving your job can often be company propaganda with the goal of exploiting workers.
“This is really useful to the boss – to tell everybody that if you love your job, it’s not really work, it’s great. And when it’s not really work, then we don’t have to pay you for it. Right?”
Workers should also be wary of devotion to their jobs leading to a loss of work-life balance according to Jaffe.
“Our time is our, that’s all we got, you know. Giving it all away to the boss is just something we should really struggle against,” she told On the Job.
“The boss will always try to expand your working day to get more out of each individual worker.”
Jaffe believes this culture of worker exploitation and ‘toxic productivity’ is rife across many industries, but buoyed by recent union campaigns in the US, where workers have organised to push back against unfair and unpaid demands of employers.
“In my industry, the journalists at the New Yorker magazine, just had a very long and somewhat dramatic union struggle to get their first contract for their union,” explained Jaffe.
“One of the things that they bargained over was time… saying that we understand that sometimes we’ll have to work late on a production schedule to get the magazine out on time. But we need to get that time back at another time. So, we should be able to if I work on the night before the magazine comes out, the copy editors are working till midnight, they should be able to take a half-day, the next week or something right, they need to get compensated for that time.
“So, there’s an understanding that people’s time that they can devote to work is not just sort of infinitely expanding.”
While Jaffe believes workers should protect themselves through organisation and unionisation, she points out that she is not actually against loving your job.
“You’re not a bad person if you like your job. I’m not saying that you’re silly and diluted. I like my job but [the book] is to make us think about how hard we’ve been sold this idea that some things are just like rewards in themselves to do it.
“Who actually benefits from that?”